March Madness and the Technology of Score-keeping
March 26, 2013
There’s a keystone in every great invention.
2013 marks the 75th anniversary of College basketball’s March Madness, the single elimination tournament that has become almost as famous as the Super Bowl. This year’s tournament promises to be as exciting as past years and will likely produce note-worthy players like Bill Russell, Wilt Chamberlain, Bill Bradley, Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, and Sean May.
However, with origins in 1890’s Canada, basketball has undergone many changes over the years, just as the means of keeping score have as well. 5 years prior to the start of the collegiate tournament, a principal in Wisconsin Dells became the inventor of an electronic sports touchstone that continues to evolve – the electronic scoreboard.
Myrle Spicer, a principal, was asked by the local school board to equip the school’s new gym with a scoreboard for their basketball program. He couldn’t find any technology available that would allow a single user to change the score and to start the clock for each quarter. As a student of physics and a fan of mechanical engineering technologies, Spicer decided to create a board and controls on his own. Realizing this could be revolutionary, he filed for a patent for the controls on June 5th 1934.
Over the next several years, the scoreboard made was seen by visiting basketball teams and orders started to come in. In 1936, Myrle Spicer was able to quit his teaching job and focus his attention on his passion for building scoreboards. An electronics revolution in sports was begun.
From these high school beginnings, the electronic scoreboard has grown and evolved. Until the 1980s, most of the boards were electro-mechanical, mainly relays, stepping switches, and incandescent light bulbs. In the 1980s, solid state electronics advanced and scoreboard technology began to make improvements and new innovations. The evolution went into high gear as digital technologies took over, with larger lettering, animation, video displays, LED lighting, and the inclusion of social media and smartphone interfaces and apps.
The electronic scoreboard had humble beginnings, like so many other great inventions. It took a man with a knowledge of physics, electronics, and mechanical engineering to start the revolution. Keystone knows what it takes to make a scoreboard function. Many of its products can be found in these scoreboards, from LED spacers and lens caps to mounting brackets, screws and panel hardware, and spacers and standoffs.
As you settled into your comfy chair to watch your favorite college team compete for the championship, take a look at the scoreboard courtside, and remember how one man took a simple request and created not only a company, but a fundamental element (besides the athletes!) prominently displayed in every gymnasium, stadium, playing field, and court worldwide.